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Impact of multiple biotic and abiotic stressors on pathogenesis in mealworms and wax moths

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  • Full or part time
    Dr H Hesketh
    Dr A M Dunn
    Assoc Prof Nicolai Vitt Meyling
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The objective of this PhD is to investigate how abiotic (climatic changes) and biotic (pathogens) stressors may impact arthropod cultures being reared for food and feed. It is known that climate change provokes physiological responses in insects which in turn affect population growth. Coupled to this, is the threat of emerging infectious disease(s), which can severely impact cultured/managed populations of invertebrates where high densities facilitate disease transmission.

This study will examine the impact of these multiple stressors using in vivo model insect mass culture systems, primarily focussing on Coleopteran larvae of the mealworm Tenebrio molitor which is mass reared for food and feed (bacteria, fungi, microsporidia). The project will then extend and challenge some of the insights gained to examine comparable issues in a different insect order, namely the wax moth Galleria mellonella (fungi, viruses, microsporidia) and further, to include an established model aquatic arthropod system using amphipod spp. (viruses, microsporidia) as a proxy for shrimp/crayfish arthropod cultures.

Specific aims are:
1) to measure host fitness responses (growth, survival and development time) and immune responses (immunity assays) of insects/crustaceans reared in multi-factorial treatments (infection; elevated temperature; elevated CO2); this will establish the effects of climate stress on pathogen transmission and host immune responses and identify the effect of multiple stressors of pathogen (biotic) and climate (abiotic) on individual host fitness.
2) to model the impact of combined stressors (parameterised from empirical experiments) at the population level to provide recommendations/information to industry.

The Scientific Environment:
The PhD will be within the Biodiversity Science Area in the Community and Restoration Ecology Group at UKCEH, Wallingford, United Kingdom and is part of a joint doctoral programme (double degree) between the University of Leeds, United Kingdom and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

This PhD position is part of a large Double Degree Programme called INSECT DOCTORS, funded by the European Commission. The overall aim of the INSECT DOCTORS training programme is to educate a new generation of scientist that have in-depth knowledge on insect pathogens, as well as the skills to assist the upcoming industry of insect mass rearing to prevent disease outbreaks in their insect cultures.

The candidate will be enrolled at two universities in different European countries. Each PhD candidate will have his/her own research project involving stays in at least two countries. Several novel PhD courses will be offered to all PhD candidates of INSECT DOCTORS. Start dates for all these PhD positions are scheduled for April/May 2020. To learn more about the training network please visit:

In order to be eligible for a place within INSECT DOCTORS, strict rules are set out by the European Commission. So please ensure you comply with these rules when applying which can be viewed here

Please note, that these rules are not negotiable. You will only be considered for the position if you fulfil (and can prove so) the eligibility criteria.

The position is available for a 3-year period and we ask for:
• An M.Sc. in a relevant field such as Ecology, Biology or Zoology would be preferable
• Ideally, you will have an interest in invertebrate pathogen ecology and will be comfortable with handling insects and insect pathogens.
• Eagerness to participate in the INSECT DOCTORS training programme and willingness to carry out research in the United Kingdom and Denmark.
• Ability to work effectively and communicate well within an international research team in a collaborative spirit.
• Eligibility based on the rules set by the European Committee

To apply, please send the following:
• Motivation Letter, stating which PhD project you are applying for and detailing your motivation and suitability for applying for the project.
• Indicate in your motivation letter why you are particularly interested in this project and whether you have applied or intend to apply for other PhD positions in the INSECT DOCTORS network.
• CV
• Diploma and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc)
• Full contact details (Name, address, telephone & email) of 1-3 professional referees

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